Perusing the front pages of Delhi
newspapers, one gets the impression that the launch of the Agni-V
intercontinental missile with a striking range of 5,000 km by
India was a prominent but by no means sensational event even for
Indians. There have been no overly emotional responses to it
outside India either. One can't help drawing a parallel between
this calm reaction and the media frenzy surrounding the failed
launch of a ballistic missile by North Korea just a week ago. And
when something of the kind happens in Iran, the reaction is even
Former US president Ronald Reagan once commented on the right to
bear arms in America with the memorable phrase, "Guns don't kill
people. People kill people." The international games surrounding
nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles illustrate the point
On May 11, 1998, India held underground nuclear tests in an
attempt to outdo Pakistan, which also planned (and successfully
conducted) such tests a few days later. And with that two more
nuclear powers were born. Like many other countries, Russia
condemned the new nuclear powers for ignoring the universally
accepted ban on expanding the nuclear club. Back then, many
commentators, observing Russia's harsh reaction to these
developments, rightly noted that no one feared France's nuclear
arsenal, because France is a country that gave the world Dumas,
Moliere, cheese and wine. It simply has no reason to use its
nuclear weapons against Russia or any other country for that
The same reasoning was applied to India: Our friend has become
stronger, so it is good news not bad.
This is also why Moscow, Beijing and Tokyo react differently to
missile tests in North Korea. The first two countries don't want
any trouble just because the Japanese and Americans are afraid of
the North Koreans. However, Pyongyang is very unlikely to fire a
missile at China or Russia.
In other words, the intentions and interests of superpowers are
more important in strategic planning than their capabilities. What
are the intentions of Russia's friend India, which has increased
the striking range of its nuclear arms delivery vehicles?
The most obvious answer is that this is bad news primarily for
China, which is, by the way, Russia's friend, too. Indeed, there's
no reason for India to aim its nuclear weapons against Africa or
the United States, all the more so since Agni can't reach U.S.
shores anyway. However, all of China's territory is now within
For several years now, various political forces in India have been
saying officially (and especially in private) that Indians aren't
dumb enough to turn their country into a missile base against
China just because, for example, the US wants it to be this way.
Both major Indian parties agree on that.
Pakistan, whose government is either unwilling or unable to
control the jihadist groups residing on its territory, remains
India's primary threat. Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is not the only
concern here. The philosophy underlying the establishment of
Pakistan as a Muslim alternative to Hindu India is another major
consideration. It's not clear what this nation will become without
this idea, and whether Pakistan will remain a nation without it.
This is not all there is to it. Jihadism is not only about
Pakistan. Let's not forget that in addition to nuclear tests in
1998, India stepped up its political involvement in the Middle
East and became very close with Israel. Today, with the Gulf
monarchies successfully promoting the jihad philosophy across all
Arab nations, such as Tunisia, Egypt and Libya to name a few, it
has become clear that India's policy was quite reasonable and the
expansion of its missile range won't hurt either.
Next comes Iran. The Indian opposition strongly criticises its
current government for its incoherent policy towards Iran.
However, the real threat to India doesn't come from Iran.
Hypothetically, if the US or the Gulf monarchies manage to sow the
seeds of chaos in Iran as well, then, in the worst case scenario,
extremist regimes will spring up from neighbouring Pakistan
westward all the way to the shores of the Atlantic.
This is something that China would like to avoid as well because
it has more shared strategic interests with India than with its
old friend Pakistan.
It is assumed that India's failed war against China in 1962 and
the loss of an uninhabited glacier in the Himalayas are a major
problem that makes these two key international partners of Russia
bitter enemies. If this were the case, then the launch of the Agni
would spell real drama for Russian foreign policy.
Let's keep in mind that Russia is India's key partner in the area
of armaments. This month Russia supplied to India the nuclear
submarine Nerpa aka Chakra on a long-term lease. By late 2012,
India will at long last receive the aircraft carrier Admiral
Gorshkov aka Vikramaditya. There's a whole list of armaments that
Russia is either selling to India or designing together with
India. If Beijing viewed India similar to the way Japan looks upon
North Korea... And if India saw China - which, by the way, became
Delhi's first trading partner - as a source of permanent threat...
Things are different in reality, though. The foreign ministers of
Russia, India and China (RIC) met this month. As it turns out, the
original triangle of this group exists as a separate entity
despite its expansion to include Brazil and South Africa (BRICS).
And the three have more and more reasons for private meetings.
Among other things, an important topic for discussion is
coordinating efforts in Afghanistan once the US and NATO forces
withdraw. The problem is that the spread of jihad policies in
Afghanistan represents a direct threat to northwestern China. As a
result, Beijing and Delhi now have more reasons for rapprochement
and Moscow has long been a willing intermediary.
As for nuclear arsenals and their delivery vehicles, even with an
enhanced strike range, they do not interfere with such efforts. On
the contrary, they are a source of calm for the partners in their
complicated relations with each other.
Dmitry Kosyrev is RIA Novosti's political commentator. The views
expressed are the author's and may not necessarily represent those
of RIA Novosti